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Former Carnegie Library in Allegheny Center the focus of preservation, reuse plans

The former Carnegie Library in the North Side's Allegheny Center was the focus of a community meeting at the New Hazlett Theater last week to plan its preservation and reuse.

The New Hazlett Theater, which is housed in the same building as the library, received a Community Design Center of Pittsburgh grant in the fall of 2009 to create plans for the 65,000-square-foot, 120-year-old building's future needs. The library still uses the Allegheny Center space as a book depository, but will fully vacate the space in December of 2010, leaving the New Hazlett as the building's only tenant--"so we're being proactive," says the theater's executive director, Sara Radelet.

The building, which also currently houses a senior citizen center, previously housed the Carnegie Library (which reopened this summer in its new brand-new Loysen + Kreuthmeier-designed home at 1230 Federal St.) and Pittsburgh Public Theater (which occupied the space from the 1970s until 1999, when it relocated Downtown). The New Hazlett Theater was founded as nonprofit in 2004 with the mission to "cultivate the arts and provide a venue for world class and neighborhood cultural events." In 2004, the building underwent more than $2 million worth of renovations, designed by EDGE studio, with Turner Construction serving as contractor.

The theater has engaged Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects to develop preliminary programming recommendations and plans for the structure. As a first step in the process, last week's community meeting focused on identifying community goals for the reuse of the building, and looked to identify other potential partners. Ideas included creating a community commercial kitchen, a shared office space for nonprofit startups, and leasing the space to a university. The New Hazlett is interested in using a portion of the space for rehearsals and programming.

Current partners in the library planning project include the New Hazlett, the City of Pittsburgh, the Children's Museum and the Warhol Museum, and the development team, led by Loysen + Kreuthmeier, includes Watson Engineering, Iams Consulting and Sota Construction Services, Inc.

Initial goals are the reduction of utility costs, and addressing code and accessibility issues. Making sure the building stays accessible to the public is also key. Future community meetings will include review of programming ideas, initial reuse options and a presentation of the final report.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sara Radelet, executive director, New Hazlett Theater; Karen Loysen and Sallyann Kluz, Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects

Photograph courtesy New Hazlett Theater

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